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Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon PC CD-ROM

Published by Matrix Games
Developed by Western Civilization Software
Release Date: Out Now
Price: £22.99 (Digital Download) £27.99 (Box Copy)

Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon, an introduction.

2005 is the year of the Napoleonic strategy game. Games such as Imperial Glory and Cossacks II: Napoleonic Wars have already arrived and there are a few more to come later in the year. Here we have probably the most ambitious of them all in Crown of Glory. Crown of Glory allows you to play in the Age of Napoleon as France, Britain, Sweden, Prussia, Austria, Russia, Turkey or Spain and take part in the quest for glory in Europe.

What's the game about?

The text at the beginning of the tutorial describes Crown of Glory as a 'detailed empire-builder combined with a comprehensive battle simulation.' In all honesty that's probably the best description that can be given of the game. Most Napoleonic games concentrate on the battles and whilst that's still a key part of Crown of Glory it's only part of the story. To achieve victory you'll have to amass more glory points than the other nations. Glory is earned by being victorious in battle, capturing foreign cities, having a high culture rating, keeping your people happy and having a successful economy amongst other things (there are 20 ways in total that you can earn glory). Crown of Glory can be played as a single-player game against the AI or you can take part in PBEM (play by e-mail) or direct connect games over a LAN or TCP/IP (or IPX or serial connection for that matter). Games can either be played as a standard campaign or start in 1792, 1796 or 1815. You can even select to play a balanced game if you wish. The overall game length can be set from 6 months to 15 years (a turn in the game represents 1 month) if you don't want to play the scenario default length. As for victory conditions you can either play the scenario default, play for the highest glory rating or choose a winning total from 100 Glory to 5,000 Glory.

What's good about the game?

The sheer depth of the game is both overwhelming (initially) and impressive. The game is filled with diplomatic options and you even get to create your own treaties with an amazing amount of options. You get to name them too. Fancy tinkering about with the workforce in a particular region? No problem. Creating and maintaining your armies is no small task. Do you supply them with food or do you ask them to forage? The choice is yours. Maintaining your different regions is no easy task (at least, balancing the books isn't easy). Each region allows you to develop 8 different areas called Guns, Walls, Roads, Barracks, Banks, Culture, Farms, Factories and Courts. Developing Banks will allow a region to increase their monetary output whilst developing Culture helps to keep your people happy in that region and of course developing Farms increases food and agricultural production. You can even develop another area called Docks in regions that have a coastline. To put it simply then there's an awful lot to do in Crown of Glory and it's going to take a heck of a long time to learn how to do everything. You do have advisors that can look after the various aspects of the game for you but you'll not want to use these for long, as it can give you the feeling that the game is playing itself.

Eventually of course, no matter how hard you try, you'll end up having to battle. Crown of Glory offers a detailed and quick battle system. You'll usually get a choice of what kind of battle to undertake but if the battle in question isn't that large you'll have no choice but to undergo the quick battle system. Quick battles simply allow you to move your units around a grid. The grid has columns for defend, attack, charge and routed. You can position the units or just click auto to have the AI do it for you. Reinforcements can be called into battle too but on the whole the quick battle method feels a little shallow. Detailed combat sees a return to the hex-based wargame formula and it's a much better system altogether although as we'll mention later, it's not without the odd problem.

What's not so good about the game?

There are a few things that prevent Crown of Glory from being a strategy classic. The number one complaint has to be the lack of a paper manual. Whilst the download version obviously comes with a .pdf manual, it's disappointing to find that the retail package does too. This happens a lot nowadays but the difference with Crown of Glory is that unlike most games, it takes a lot to fully learn what's going on and what needs to be done. The tutorial needs to be printed out, the strategy guide needs to be printed out and the manual itself needs to be printed out. All these need to be printed out because you need access to them whilst game is being played. Simply alt-tabbing between the game and the .pdf manual is not an ideal solution either. The fact that the .pdf manual insists on displaying the pages side by side also makes reading the manual in this way rather clumsy (unless you've a 20" widescreen TFT or above of course) as you have to scroll not only down but also to the side. Altogether we are talking just over 100 sheets of A4 that you'll need to print out which is going to cost a tidy amount.

Another oversight is the omission of an undo the last move button. It's all too easy to move a unit to a location and have a change of heart (or to make a mistake whilst moving a unit). A lot of strategy games allow you to undo your last move but with Crown of Glory you're stuffed and this can be irritating. During battles that are fought with the detailed combat method you can't save the game. This may seem like a petty complaint but I've had battles that have lasted well over an hour and I would have liked the ability to have been able to save and come back at a later date to finish the battle. Yes I could have used the quick battle method but this is nowhere near as satisfying. Finally there are a few rough aspects here such as debug options that should have been removed and on quitting the game you're treated to an error message. Aside from the .pdf manual issue the rest of these complaints could be fixed with a patch so it's by no means a major cause for concern.

How does it look?

Turn-based strategy games are not known for being great looking but Crown of Glory certainly has charm. The map in the strategic and detailed battle view looks great and I love the way you have dynamic weather over the different regions. The maps in the game could do with more detail though (even though what's there looks nice) as for the most part the maps look quite bare given the amount of action that's going on. This is especially so for the detailed battle maps. The general presentation of the multitude of data that's in the game is OK but the interface could look smarter. It's unfortunate that the game only supports the 1024x768 resolution. This has the side effect of giving the text a slightly blurry look on a 17" and above TFT monitor.

How deaf gamer friendly is the game?

Crown of Glory, like most turn-based strategy games, is fine for deaf gamers. The game's mass of information is all delivered in text and will cause no problems at all. As we mentioned earlier the tutorial requires you to print out a .pdf file so again you'll be able to follow everything as it's in text. You'll see floating text messages that inform you of various actions such as sieges etc. and during the AI turns you'll see text messages that inform you of events between the other nations. Suffice to say you'll have no problems at all with Crown of Glory.

Final thoughts.

Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon is a great game that successfully blends empire building and strategic battles. It has a depth that is rarely seen these days and once you're comfortable with how the game plays you'll be able to appreciate the game in all of its glory. However it must be pointed out that the game isn't for the faint hearted. Only the most dedicated gamers will survive the learning curve and put up with the frustrations of having to print out huge chunks of text in order to learn the game. If you aren't prepared to put in the necessary hours to learn how to play the game, you'll be washed away in a sea of confusion. If you are dedicated enough to put the time in to learning the game though you'll find a very rewarding experience and even taking into consideration the niggles we have with the game, what we have here is still one of the best Napoleonic strategy games to date.

 

Overall Game Rating: 8.7/10

Deaf Gamers Classification

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Crown of Glory: Europe in the Age of Napoleon is an amazing strategy game that simply has an embarrassing amount of features (this would be a 10,000 word review if we were to cover every aspect of the game) that will delight strategy fans the world over. However, it lacks a bit of polish and a few niceties such as being able to take back a move and a mid-battle save. All things considered it's one of the best Napoleonic wargames to date.

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